I’m quite a reserved person and I also like to be helpful, so when people ask me to give a keynote or a talk, I usually say yes, particularly online. Also, when you’re from a not particularly privileged background you tend to be grateful for stuff rather than demanding. I still expect someone to tell me they’ve made a mistake in appointing me professor, and in fact I should be working in a supermarket (no disrespect to supermarket workers, I was one for years).
All of this means that I tend not to ask for anything. If I can do the talk, then I’ll do it. But since Covid-19 hit I’ve done over 20 webinars, largely for free, and I’ve started to realise that I’m not making the best use of these offers. I don’t mean to maximise return for myself (although, contributions to the vinyl collection are always welcome), but to use what little position or influence I have for something else. For example, Maha Bali, who is much smarter than I, asked for her OLC keynote to be livestreamed. I’ve just waived a fee for a talk at the Irish Universities EDTL event next week, instead asking them to donate to Black Lives Matter UK. Others have spoken for free but in exchange for places for free places (particularly in online events) for students.
This post is partly to prompt others like myself who’s instinct is to be helpful but aren’t really be thoughtful enough. I need to get better at making the ask. I would add, this is distinct from people who make a living from keynotes, you should definitely pay them and not offer payment in kind like this – it’s for those small, free, low budget talks that many academics give to each other. Indeed, waiving your fee so they can pay someone else might be a good use too. But also I wanted to sound out any other ideas for what might be in such an ask if money or places weren’t available, or that might be more useful. Any suggestions?